Monday December 3, 2018

2.0 (Tamil) – Director: Shankar

Posted by Karthik

Before you begin, my movie review of Endhiran, if you have not read it.

More than anything else, Shankar’s 2.0 is a shining statement about the evolution of non-cricket sports in India. Not only does the extended climax take place in a football stadium (and not during a cricket match), but when Akshay Kumar’s Dr. Pakshi Raajan boasts that he is about to kill 80,000 people in the stadium, Shankar’s soaring imagination goes way past the previous highest attended football match in India – 63,000+ people who attended the ISL match between Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC, in Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, on 16th December 2015!

In case you want to know, Atletico de Kolkata won 2-1.

2.0 is proof that we Tamilians have clearly left behind Nijam Paakku’s TV advertisement that boasted of impressive graphics – faces morphed like that Michael Jackson music video in Black or White. Shankar has been gradually building his prowess in graphics, starting with his very first film, Gentleman, when he had Prabhu Deva interact with cartoon arrows and shed giant animated tears. In 2.0, he finally challenges Hollywood in both scale, scope and sheer imagination.

The quality of visual effects is astoundingly good, only because the crux of what and why is so convincing. It’s a particularly interesting twist during the only song in the film, the end-credits song, ‘Endhira Logathu Sundariye’ where the names of visual effects technicians are all foreign names, while the film’s other departments are largely Tamilians. Most Indians are accustomed to seeing the reverse in almost every Hollywood film – when you sit impatiently through the post-credits scene in a Marvel film, you’d notice tons of Indian surnames and can also see the rest of theater pointing at a ‘Janakiraman’ or ‘Khandelwal’ floating up on the screen.

The plot is Black Mirror’ish dystopia which you wish did actually happen, for the sake of all the birds and glorious human conversation, even if you wished, 5 minutes later, that it all went back to how it was before. The very fact that most of us show the mobile QR code to enter a theater that tells you about evils of mobile tower radiation is worth pondering… for about 5 minutes before being distracted by the next the Whatsapp forward. That explains the fleeting crux of the film perfectly. It is hugely imaginative, has a global appeal and makes you ‘feel’ good for the time you are inside the theater. That’s also how Dr. Pakshi Raajan explains how people ‘support’ the cause of birds – share the video of birds dying and then move on, happy that their part is done.

2.0 seems like the first film in Shankar’s repertoire where he has a flashback (his famous, now familiar narrative technique) for the villain, even though, in this story the villain is actually fighting for the right things (with a destructive method, though)! Gentleman had a flashback for Kicha, the good person; Indian had a flashback for Senapathy, the good old man; Jeans had a flashback for Nachiappan, the father of the twins, a good person; Anniyan had a flashback for Ambi, the good person.

In 2.0, the flashback is for Dr. Pakshi Raajan, Akshay Kumar’s character, to explain why he became a supervillain. From a sequence perspective, it seems appropriate – all the other flashbacks in Shankar’s films are for the good person, like in 2.0 too. But all those characters with a flashback, in all those films, lived to win in the end. 2.0 is the first Shankar film where the good person has a flashback but has to be vanquished! The closest that comes to this is Indian’s Senapathy where he had to abscond towards the end of the film (perhaps he’ll be back in Shankar’s next, starring Kamal Hassan – Indian 2?).

And this may be the first movie by Shankar where a woman has been given a character that is, quirkily, both appropriate and critical. Amy Jackson’s acting skills have been called, in the past, as being a bit robotic. She plays a robot in the movie so you cannot blame her at all here. And she literally saves the film by recreating Chitti 3.0! Without her, there’s no movie after a point! That is significant.

Akshay Kumar seems sincere, hiding under his multiple make-up kits. I reckon he has been added only to lend a Bollywood-heft to the marketability of the film.

This is also the first film where Shankar, like Mani Ratnam recently, has done away with the idea of a dedicated soundtrack, despite both of them having A.R.Rahman at their disposal. Mani, at least, released the soundtrack on the day of the film’s release (Chekka Chevantha Vaanam), but Shankar has 3.5 songs in the film if you count the smaller theme pieces that pepper the film. And only one plays in the film fully, in a forced narrative, over the VFX credits. Everyone sits through it silently, like expecting a Marvel post-credits scene, only to get Dr. Vaseegaran in the hospital again, greeting his grandson, amidst extreme and persistent close-up of assorted Patanjali products.

That brings me to Rajinikanth. The man is 67. To call him ‘clay’ in the hands of directors, at that age, is a new form of hero-worship, because the directors that have used that clay so far haven’t really bothered about that age at all. They seem to be stuck in a time warp where the idea of Rajini is more important than the man himself. Shankar again asks only for Rajini’s face and uses VFX to create the rest of Rajini. And since robots don’t have a soul, he doesn’t need that from Rajini either.

Much like Endhiran, this film extends the idea of Rajini as a super-hero using a convincingly convenient story as a prop. The story allows Shankar to play with robots and making three such robots as Rajini obliterates the age-old problem of Rajini’s age. The only other hero who has tried something along these lines is Jackie Chan, with his own animated series where he is, obviously, ageless. Rajini, with Endhiran, 2.0 and Kochadaiiyaan is pitching in that zone quite convincingly.

Like Endhiran, this is a Shankar film. The scale, the imagination, the familiar story and narrative structure that also includes a post-interval flashback is straight out of his predictable and successful playbook. Like in Endhiran, he lets us glimpse into the menacing Rajinikanth of his villain-past, at places in 2.0. Those are literally the places where the film jumps out of the screen, beyond the over-indulgent 3D (that even has the innards of a door latch jump out of the screen, quite pointlessly, when NILA is opening a Government store house’s door). Beyond that, 2.0 is a hugely enjoyable children’s film that even adults can sit through comfortably. And I mean it as a compliment.

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